Non-Degree Credential Quality: A Conceptual Framework to Guide Measurement

Making sense of the increasingly crowded market of non-degree credentials can be a challenge. These credentials include a wide range of awards, including noncredit and credit certificates, industry certifications, occupational licensure, apprenticeships, and badges and microcredentials, offered by educational institutions, private training providers, industry associations, unions, and others. Over one quarter of U.S. adults have some type of non-degree credential according to a recent survey by the National Center for Educational Statistics. In the increasingly crowded credential marketplace, there is little to guide how individuals, policymakers, employers, and educational institutions evaluate the quality of non-degree credentials. A system is needed to measure quality and ensure these credentials do not offer false promises, particularly to individuals from marginalized groups who may be particularly drawn to non-degree credentials for their potential to lead to employment and rewarding career pathways. This paper outlines a broad framework to guide the development of standards and processes to evaluate quality of non-degree credentials. It is intentionally broad to allow stakeholders to identify those elements that are most essential for their purposes, while keeping a few key guidelines in mind. It provides recommendations for key stakeholders to promote the measurement of quality in non-degree credentials.

This project is supported by Lumina Foundation.


Non-Degree Credit Quality Full ReportNon-Degree Credit Quality Report Executive Summary


Read the press release: SMLR Report Urges Quality Controls for Non-Degree Credential Programs

Read the blog post: The time is right to ensure that all quality learning counts


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